Chinese e-commerce marketplace giant JD.com is investing about $397 million into U.K.-based luxury brand marketplace Farfetch, and JD.com CEO Richard Liu is taking a seat on the smaller company’s board of directors, TechCrunch reports.
Farfetch currently partners with 200 brands and 500 multi-brand retailers in China, according to TechCrunch, and the company has been aiming to expand more deeply into China and across Asia.
The investment comes barely one year after Farfetch raised about $100 million in venture capital money, and saw its overall valuation rocket to $1.5 billion.
After a lull of about three years or so, things are looking up for many luxury retailers and brands, who could see double-digit revenue growth this year. That was the assessment of Moody's Investors Service just a few weeks ago. In the same report, Moody's suggested China will continue to be a major force driving growth in the luxury market, though analysts question the ability of China's softening economy to carry the sector.
That may be part of the reason JD.com is investing in Farfetch, as the larger company is trying to do more in fashion and trying harder to compete with Alibaba for somewhat more limited luxury spending opportunities in China. JD.com's star has appeared to be rising in China over the last year or so, as Alibaba has had to focus more on efforts to distance itself from a reputation as a marketplace that failed for a long time to crack down on counterfeit products, a reputation that would seem to spell doom for any company selling luxury items.
The real story here, however, is that Farfetch gets to tap into JD.com’s existing luxury-focused courier service, massive logistics network and other capabilities. Farfetch in April announced it had partnered with Gucci on a new 90-minute delivery service for orders placed on its app or website in major cities across the world. While none of those participating cities are in China, JD.com's support may pave the way for nearly immediate delivery in the country.
One of JD.com's major partners in China is the WeChat mobile messaging platform, which has proven to be an avenue for luxury brands like Michael Kors, Burberry and LVMH to communicate with and sell to their customers in China. Farfetch may be the next luxury platform to leverage WeChat in the same way.